3. Virtues and Well-being – Positive Psychology


Virtues and Well-being

Surendra Kumar Sia
Department of Applied Psychology, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry

Abstract   Virtue is a positive trait or quality considered to be morally respectable and, thus, is honoured as the foundation for good moral being. Virtue is an attribute of a person which leads to moral excellence and collective well-being. Virtues have been described in a variety of religious, philosophic and cultural traditions. The present chapter would begin with a historical perspective of virtues, having focus upon Eastern traditions. Confucianism advocates five virtues which are central to lead a moral life. Buddhism, a major Eastern philosophy, gives an important place to virtues and describes those as Brahma Vihars. Stalker (1902) mentions about seven cardinal virtues, which in fact is an union of two sets of catholic virtues comprising four cardinal virtues and three theological virtues. The chapter then attempts to discuss the scientific base of virtue, in terms of strengths, as grounded by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Though one can certainly be virtuous without being religious, still religion can provide a base for studies on morality and virtue. Therefore, the next section of the chapter deals with the relationship between religion and virtue. The chapter also explicates the role of virtues towards psychological well-being. The chapter ends with future research implications for studies on virtue as a construct.

Virtues and Well-being

Virtue is a positive trait or quality considered to be morally respectable and, thus, is honoured as the foundation for a good morally upright human being. A virtue is an attribute of a person which leads to moral excellence and collective well-being. Virtue is the capacity to perform what is good. With virtue, our mind becomes our own. A major emphasis of positive psychology is to identify as well as foster the bases of a well-lived life. The characteristics of a good life are intimately associated with virtue. Virtue is positive in its own regard. We usually admire people who are quite sociable, outgoing, optimistic, etc. We also admire people who exhibit virtuous qualities like kindness, honesty, gentleness, reverence, integrity and courage. These qualities not only have significance for individuals, but also have greater value for the society. Usually, these qualities have moral as well as spiritual connotations. Virtue is a meeting point of divine perfection and human life as an ideal state. Confronting the ideal prototype, man finds himself face-to-face not with a moral ‘must’ but with an ‘is’. Virtue stands, thus ‘midway’ between God and moral imperatives (Lindbom, 1975). Despite being a positive asset for the individual as well as the society, for a long time, virtue has not been considered as an appropriate construct for systematic psychological query. The study of virtue was assumed to be easily biased by researcher’s moral beliefs and prevailing cultural norm (Tjeltveit, 2003). However, a renewed interest has started to emerge since the positive psychologists realize that without the inclusion of this moral dimension, explanation of human behaviour may remain incomplete. Before travelling on the scientific expositions related to virtues, let us project briefly an historical account from the Eastern perspective.

Virtues and Buddhism

The Eastern philosophies and religious practices including Buddhism and Confucianism provide the insight regarding how to lead a harmonious, simplistic and fulfilling lifestyle. All these insights can be applied in everyday life irrespective of one’s religious beliefs. The practices prescribed in Buddhism are a progressive list of virtues. The four brahmavihāras, which are considered to be above the universal virtues, occupy an important place in Buddhist tradition (Wetlesen, 2002; Bodhi, 2000). Cultivation of the four virtues, which are also called, ‘four immesurables (apramāna)’, makes the human being develop wholesome attitudes towards others in society and to contribute towards greater happiness. These virtues are: maitri (loving-kindness or benevolence), karunā (compassion), mudita (empathic joy) and upeksha (equanimity) (Sangharakshita, 1991).

Maitri or loving-kindness counters ill will. The attitude of loving-kindness is like the feeling which a mother has for her newborn. However, this should not remain confined to those for whom we have some attachment. It should also extend to others whom we may know faintly or not know at all. In a nutshell, it is the wish that all conscious beings, without any exception, be happy. Karunā or compassion counters cruelty. It makes the heart move at the pain of others. The individual wishes to crush and destroy the pain of others and, also helps and embraces the distressed people. We can inculcate the attitude of compassion in the world around us. Mudita or empathic joy is the attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of others. It counters jealousy and makes people less self centered. We can experience this appreciative joy even in our daily lives. It is especially the vicarious joy which comes from delighting in other people’s well-being. It should not be confounded with pride. The individual experiencing mudita must not have anything to gain from other’s accomplishments. If we are happy when others are healthy and prosperous, it is called mudita. Upeksha or equanimity is the virtue which can lead to the Buddhist path of nirvana. It refers to mental and emotional stability in the face of the worldly fluctuations. Equanimity is a protection from the ‘eight worldly winds’: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute (Fronsdal, 2004). Moreover, it counters clinging as well as aversion. In other words, we should try to remain free from all points of self-reference and regard all living beings as equals, irrespective of their present relationship with us. However, it should not be confused with indifference, which implies the lack of concern for others. True equanimity is the culmination point of the four virtues advocated by the Buddhist tradition. Buddhism also advocates the pāramitās, which refer to the perfection or culmination of certain virtues and can be cultivated as a way of purification (Bodhi, 2005). These are: dana (generosity, i.e., giving of oneself), sila (virtue, morality, proper conduct), nekkhamma (renunciation), panna (transcendental wisdom, insight), viriya (energy, diligence, vigour), khanti (patience, tolerance, acceptance, endurance), sacca (truthfulness, honesty) and adhitthana (determination, resolution). All these virtues are also respected by Buddhists as powerful counteragents against negative mental states like anger, greed and pride.

Confucianism and Virtues

Confucianism, like other eastern religions, provides basic insight regarding how to lead a simple, harmonious and fulfilling lifestyle. The major focus is upon humans and the fundamental principles of humanity. Confucian moral thought is a role-based virtue ethics. It is role-based because ‘it is based on the roles that make an agent the person he or she is’ (Nuyen, 2009). According to Confucianism, people must continue a life-long journey of learning and self-discovery to become the ideal person. Confucianism does not glorify allegiance to divine wish or higher law (Juergensmeyer, 2005). The belief is that human beings can be taught and edified through personal and collective effort. Confucian tradition emphasizes upon cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics. Individuals should not only learn certain virtues, they must practice and make such virtues part of their character or pattern of life. The attainment of virtue is at the core of Confucian teachings (Snyder and Lopez, 2007). The important virtues advocated are: ren, yi and li.

Ren (Jen) is the core virtue as per the teachings of Confucius. Ren (Humaneness) refers to altruism and humaneness towards other individuals. This is well comprehended in the Confucian version of the ethics of reciprocity. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (Flew, 1979). Ren has both a broad and a narrow perspective (Shun, 1997). In the narrow sense, it can be termed as benevolence, which means, caring for or loving others. This is associated with the natural affective component of the individual. The broad sense of ren can be translated as perfect virtue or humanness. This broad sense is the unity of all the virtues including ren in the narrow sense. A similar type of classification is put forth by Luo (2011) addressing different understandings of ren. Ren as a first-order particular virtue is one among many virtues. Further, ren as the higher-order general virtue is an umbrella term used to cover a variety of virtues. It is used as an umbrella term to cover five virtues: respect (gong), tolerance (kuan), trustworthiness (xin), diligence (min) and kindness (hui) (Luo, 2011).

The virtue of li, which refers to propriety or etiquette, gives clear instruction for proper behaviours on the part of the individuals based on their respective roles in the society. Li was constituted by the rules specifying rituals governing sacrifices performed by individuals or groups in honour of their common ancestors (Chang, 1983). Afterwards, the scope of li has been stretched to include etiquette and appropriate manners in social interactions. Li can provide a proper common ground for social interactions and overcome the problem of chaos produced by unregulated natural desires. Moreover, by regulating resource distribution, li can produce prosperity (Xunzi, 2001). According to the Confucian perspective, li has an important role in the practice of some virtues. It places standards to exhibit proper manner and experience right emotion in specific context of social interaction. Without individual’s observance of li, some virtues can become vices.

Yi, translated as righteousness, appropriateness or dutifulness, functions as an intermediary between ren and li. This virtue is a character trait related to the motivation to abide by li or social norms (Cua, 2007).Yi is connected with the emotions of shame and aversion arising out of the negative emotion triggered by failure to conform to li. (van Norden, 2007). Some behaviours ought to be exhibited due to the reason that those are right irrespective of their outcomes. The core of the act is its rightness regardless of its intention or consequence. Therefore, yi is a different way than stoicism (intention with determinism) or utilitarianism (maximizing consequences). Confucians also vouch for other virtues like wen (appreciation of various types of art), xiao (Filial Piety), shu (being mindful about how one’s actions will affect other people) and zhi (knowledge) (Molloy, 2010).

Virtues: Hindu Perspectives

Unlike other traditions, Hinduism does not seem to have a specific founder. The Hindu theory of life runs through three great ages. The first is the Vedic Age—the age of affirmation. The second is the age of the Upanishads—the age of denial of the world and affirmation of the spirit. The third is the age of synthesis when the values of the world are reaffirmed in the light of the spirit. This was the age of the Gita. It was in this way that the Hindu theory gains such a depth and complexity. The world is affirmed, denied and re-affirmed. The Hindu way of life or Sanatana Dharma, as it was originally called, is inclusive by nature (Buch, 2012). Sankara’s Vivekacudamani (verses 18–28) suggests the human being to prepare for self-realization through acquisition of four means (sadhna-chatustaya) (Paranjpe and Rao, 2008). Out of these four means, attainment of shad-sampat or six virtues is most important. The virtues are control of the mind, tranquility and calmness (shama), control of the sense organs (dama), inner withdrawal or renunciation of worldly activities (uparati), patient forbearance of suffering and endurance of changing situations (titiksha), unconditional faith and trust faith in the teacher, the atman and the scriptures (shraddha) and concentration of the mind, study and contemplation (samadhana) (Puligandla, 1985).

The Bhagavad Gita, a major Hindu text, depicts an integral philosophy of life and transformation. This holy book enlists twenty-six divine qualities of which the edifice of righteous action is built (Sinha, 2005). These virtues help the individual to reach the supreme destination. Perhaps, all the important virtues which have become significant constructs of research by present-day positive psychologists are covered in the first three stanzas of the sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.


Abhayam sattva-samsuddhir jnana-yoga-vyavasthitih
Danam damas ca yajnas ca svadhyayas tapa arjavam

(Bhagavad Gita, 16.1)

Ahimsa satyam akrodhas tyagah santir apaisunam
Dayabhutesv aloluptvam mardavam hrir acapalam

(Bhagavad Gita, 16.2)

Tejah ksama dhrtih saucam adroho natimanita
Bhavanti sampadam daivim abhijatasya bharata

(Bhagavad Gita, 16.3)

We may describe some of the important ones. Abhayam is fearlessness due to the absence of anxiety which arises from the dread of harm to the physical body or the prospect of losing what is precious. Danam is charity offered to worthy recipients. Damah refers to self-restraint and controlling the mind without being influenced by sensory stimuli. Ahimsa is non-violence to, or not hurting any living being by thought, word or action. This virtue has been adopted, practiced and advocated successfully by Mahatma Gandhi. Satyam is truthfulness or showing the courage to stand up and voice the truth for everybody’s benefit. Akrodha means freedom from anger and aggression based upon lack of resentment for others. Tyagah is renunciation or abandonment of things opposed to self-realization. Santih implies peace and tranquility through maintaining calm in sense organs. Daya refers to compassion, sympathy and empathy for the misery of others. It is one of the vital virtues in spiritual development. Arjava refers to being honest, both with others as well as ourselves. We should renounce deception. Hrih means being modest and feeling uneasy for own inappropriate behaviour. We should foster enough modesty so that we can apologize for our mistakes in the presence of others. Kshama is forgiveness or compassion. It is important to be tolerant and patient towards others and attempt to understand them. Dhritih is fortitude and ability to persevere in spite of hardships and adversary conditions. We should constantly follow the righteous path even in the face of great difficulties (Bhagavad Gita 16.1, 2 and 3).

Virtues: Empirical Orientation

Deliberations upon positive traits would be incomplete if we do not include positive human qualities which are admired morally and ethically. We respect individuals who exhibit strengths of character which manifests virtuous attributes like honesty, integrity and kindness, etc. Virtue is esteemed positively by everybody because of its value in society and its strong association with the religious and secular mores of life. However, in spite of its relevance to the individual as well as the society, virtue has not been considered as an appropriate construct for scientific investigation in the history of psychology (Baumgardner and Crothers, 2009). The study of virtue was assumed to be easily tainted and biased by the moral beliefs of researchers and existing cultural practices (Tjeltveit, 2003). Virtue and character were some of the dominant topics in the early periods of psychology, and character development was considered as an important aspect (Leahey, 1994; Sussman, 1973). But these concepts fell into disinterest as psychologists attempted to segregate scientific fact from moral value in their attempt to become an accepted scientific branch (Nicholson, 1998; Ross and Nisbett, 1991). Personality psychologists like Allport have consistently attempted to exclude the evaluative components from the discussion of personality and devalued the importance of character and virtue to become a part of psychology. They considered character and virtue to be normative components of ethics unlike the scientific personality traits (Allport, 1921; Allport and Vernon, 1930). However, it is not easy to separate moral attributes from the description of personality. Virtue and character are integral to the widely acclaimed five factor model of personality. Two of those five factors, viz., agreeableness and conscientiousness, are clearly related to virtue (Costa and McCrae, 1991; McCrae and John, 1992).

The other influential factor responsible for the disfavour shown by psychologists towards virtue is the publication of Hartshorne and May’s studies on honesty among schoolchildren (Hartshorne and May, 1928; Hartshorne, May and Maller, 1929; Hartshorne, May and Shuttle-worth, 1930).They found that children were dishonest if got the opportunity. Their conclusion was that situational contributors were more important than character for manifestation of moral behaviour. However, these findings have been reinterpreted later theoretically and empirically (Fowers, 2012). Virtue theory does not indicate that majority of the individuals, including children, will act virtuously across the situations. The finding that some children acted honestly in spite of incentives for not being honest, suggests the presence of the strength of character. Statistical re-analyses also cast doubt on the conclusions by Hartshorne and May (Burton, 1963; Epstein and O’Brien, 1985; Rushton, 1984). Unlike the previous dismissals by psychologists, Baumeister and Exline (1999) argue that virtue concepts can be subjected to empirical research with available methods. The advent of positive psychology, with its interest in virtue has also contributed to this literature (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). More and more empirical literature is emerging on global virtue (Cawley, Martin and Johnson, 2000; Hawkins, Fowers, Carroll and Yang, 2006; Steger, Hicks, Kashdan, Krueger and Bouchard, 2007; Shryack, Steger, Krueger and Kallie, 2010; Walker and Pitts, 1998) and specific virtues like forgiveness (McCullough, Pargament and Thoresen, 2000; Mullet, Girard and Bakhshi, 2004) gratitude (Emmons and Crumpler, 2000; McCullough, Emmons and Tsang, 2002), courage (Pury and Kowalski, 2007) and practical wisdom (Kramer, 2000; Staudinger, Lopez and Baltes, 1997).

Psychologists have attempted to delineate definitions for virtue. Broadie (1991) defines that excellence or virtue is nothing but a characteristic which makes the difference between functioning and functioning well. It is merely a psychological process that enables a person to think and act so as to benefit himself or herself and society (McCullough and Snyder, 2000). Virtues are broad-band, socially desirable, individual difference constructs that are valued across cultures (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). Virtues are core characteristics valued by moral philosophers and character strengths are less abstract personality traits which may be used to achieve virtues (Carr, 2004). Virtues are simply human excellences or character strengths that make it possible for individuals to pursue characteristically human good that allow them to flourish as human beings (Fowers, 2012). Beyond definition, psychologists have put sincere effort in identifying the nature and structure of virtue in different contexts and different populations (Cawley, Martin and Johnson, 2000; Dahlsgaard, 2005; Park and Peterson, 2006; Peterson and Park, 2004; Peterson, Park, Pole, D’Andrea and Seligman, 2008; Van Eeden, Wissing, Dreyer, Park and Peterson, 2008; Shryack, Steger, Krueger and Kallie, 2010). Except the factor analysis carried out by Cawley, et al. (2000), all other researchers have basically undertaken their exploration using the twenty-four character strengths enumerated in virtues in action (VIA) model. This VIA model is originally based upon comprehensive review of literature and professional consensus and distinctions have been made between virtue, strengths and enabling themes (Dahlsgaard, Peterson and Seligman, 2005; Peterson and Seligman, 2004). Character strengths are routes for achieving virtues (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). The twenty-four strengths are organized around six virtues. Each virtue can be defined in terms of a number of character strengths which represent the ingredients for developing virtue. The six virtues in this model are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

Wisdom refers to acquisition and use of knowledge. This can be achieved through the strengths of creativity, curiosity, taking wider perspective of the world, critical thinking and interest to learn new things. It is not necessarily related with formal education or intelligence quotient. Intelligence provides the basic knowledge for daily life tasks, whereas wisdom consists of the know-how, judgement and flexibility to solve predominant life problems for the common good (Clayton, 1982; Sternberg, 1985). Courage is the emotional strength and will power to accomplish goals in spite of internal as well as external adversity and opposition. This virtue can be fostered through perseverance, bravery, honesty and the feeling of being alive and excited. Similarly, researchers identified three types of courage, viz., physical courage, moral courage and vital courage in similar model (O’Byrne, Lopez and Peterson, 2000). Physical courage includes the maintenance of societal good through the manifestation of physical behaviour. Moral courage refers to expression of authenticity in the face of disapproval or rejection. Vital courage means perseverance through a disease or disability even when the outcome is ambiguous (Snyder and Lopez, 2007). Humanity is the virtue of sympathy, empathy, compassion and love in interpersonal relationship. To develop this virtue, we need to understand the social world, be generous and kind towards others and need to value close relationships. Justice is a vital component for healthy community life. It involves the ability to relate effectively within the society and can be achieved by fairness, teamwork and organizing group activity. The virtue of temperance is a kind of self-awareness which protects against expression of excess. This can be inculcated through self-regulation, modesty and by choosing actions with care. Temperance also involves the ability to forgive the hurtful behaviours of others. The virtue of transcendence raises the individual above the preoccupations of daily life and provides a deeper meaning of life through a connection with the wider universe. This can be developed through gratitude, hope, spirituality and appreciation of beauty and excellence. Probably all six of these virtues must be present at the above threshold level for a person to be considered as of good character (Carr, 2004). Although, a number of researches have been carried out using the character strengths embedded in VIA model, there is not enough evidence to substantiate the six virtues structure (Park and Peterson, 2005; Dahlsgaard, 2005; Park and Peterson, 2008; Peterson, Park, Pole, D’Andrea and Seligman, 2008; Haidt, 2008; Shryack, Steger, Krueger and Kallie, 2010). An important objective of the positive psychology movement has become to describe and evaluate virtuous personality for the benefit of individuals and society (Peterson and Park, 2004; Peterson and Seligman, 2004). More researches may be carried out for establishing empirically derived dimensions of virtue to fulfil this objective.

In addition to the attempt for delineating global virtues like the ones mentioned here, researchers are also focusing upon specific virtues like forgiveness (McCullough, Pargament and Thoresen, 2000; Mullet, Girard and Bakhshi, 2004) gratitude (Emmons and Crumpler, 2000; McCullough, Emmons and Tsang, 2002), courage (Pury and Kowalski, 2007), and practical wisdom (Kramer, 2000; Staudinger, Lopez and Baltes, 1997).

Virtue and Well-being

Positive psychologists should try to explicate the relationship of the concept or construct they focus with well-being. Virtue, being a major topic of discussion in religious scriptures and philosophical texts, has definitely a strong association with well-being or good life. Therefore, MacIntyre (1984) mentions that the concept of the good life is prior to the concept of a virtue. Virtues make it possible to pursue the good life. But, unfortunately, the psychological literatures on the topics of virtue and good life are extremely fragmented, lacking cohesion in either domain and exhibiting precious few connections between these two growing and deeply interconnected areas of interest (Fowers, 2010, 2012). Psychologists, who take up studies on virtue, should link it to the concept of well-being. When we say, ‘well-being’, it is not simply the hedonic happiness, i.e., pleasantness. Being in positive psychology, we definitely look forward to the human being to be happy. But, at the same time, we should also emphasize whether the individual is realizing his/her potential to lead an authentic life or not. Aristotle defines a term called ‘eudaimonia’ as realizing one’s full potential. Therefore, we need to view well-being with multiple foci. In this context the concept of complete mental health (Ryff and Keyes, 1995) is worth mentioning. They view complete mental health as combination of emotional well-being, social well-being and psychological well-being. Emotional well-being, referred as subjective well-being, can be defined as the presence of positive affect, absence of negative affect and overall life satisfaction. The components of psychological well-being are self-acceptance, personal growth and purpose in life, environmental mastery, autonomy and positive relations. Social well-being involves social coherence, feeling of being part of community, social contribution and social acceptance. Complete mental health consists of high levels of emotional, social and psychological well-being (Keyes and Lopez, 2002). Attempts can be made to investigate the contribution of virtue towards these different facets of well-being in different spheres of life. A number of practical applications of virtue have been advocated in varied areas like education (Park, Peterson and Seligman, 2006; Steen, Kachorek and Peterson, 2003), clinical settings (Seligman and Peterson, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005) and organizations (Peterson and Park, 2006).

Human virtues make sense within the relational context of social functions and purposes. The appropriation of virtue ethics in psychotherapy can be seen as a significant force in the state-of-art progress that is taking place among a growing number of psychiatrists and psychologists who are gradually becoming critical of the ideology of instrumentalism and technicism in their own clinical practice (Aho, 2012). Modern culture and modern science have been hampered by materialism, dualism, realism and idealism. Though all things are thought to be real and fundamental, they are in fact abstracted from their contexts (Slife and Richardson, 2008). Slife and associates (e.g., Slife and Richardson, 2008) established a therapeutic school exclusively on strong relationality, which led them to employ Aristotle’s virtue ethics. They mention that virtues can only be acquired as character strengths through the lived activities. The participant’s aspirations towards virtues lead to eudaimonic well-being (Slife, 2012). An extensive study by Park, Peterson and Seligman (2004), reveals that consistently and robustly associated with life satisfaction are hope, zest, gratitude, love and curiosity. Moreover, excess of any one character strength does not diminish life satisfaction. Employees scoring high on virtues are more satisfied and engaged at work, indicate higher levels of psychological well-being and perceive higher levels of functioning and performance (Nelson and Cooper, 2007; Bakker and Schaufelli, 2008; Burke, Ng and Fiksenbaum, 2009). We can also discuss about the contribution of specific virtues towards different facets of well-being. Reviews suggest that forgiveness leads to small but consistent positive outcomes in health and well-being (McCullough and Witvliet, 2002; Worthington, 2006), acts as antidote against the negative effects of hostility (Witvliet, Ludwig and Vander Laan, 2001), improves interpersonal relationships (Karremans and Van Lange, 2004; McCullough, Rachal, Sandage, Worthington, Brown and Hight, 1998; Tsang, McCullough, and Fincham, 2006) and adjustment of women with breast cancer (Glinder and Compas, 1999; Romero, Friedman, Kalidas, Elledge, Chang, and Liscum, 2006). Another widely researched virtue, which is found to have significant association with well-being, is gratitude. Studies indicate that gratitude make us feel happy, contended and joyful (Bono, Emmons and McCullough, 2004; Emmons and McCullough, 2003), lowers risk for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and phobia (Kendler, Liu, Gardner, McCullough and Larsen, 2003), benefits people with post traumatic stress disorder(Kashdan, Uswatte, and Julian, 2006), increases post-traumatic growth (Peterson and Seligman, 2003), promotes relationship formation and maintenance (Algoe, Haidt, and Gable, 2008) and is integral to positive functioning (Maltby, Day and Barber, 2004).

Virtue: Research Implications

Virtue is an emerging construct in the field of positive psychology. However, it has a long moral and religious background. In all the religions adapted in different cultures, a major focus is given on virtuous behaviour. Psychologists from different cultural backgrounds may attempt to operationalize as well as empirically examine the different terms and concepts suggested in various religions related to virtue. In the present context, an important objective of the positive psychology movement has been to elaborate or evaluate virtuous behaviour for the benefit of the individuals and society (Peterson and Park, 2004; Peterson and Seligman, 2004). Therefore, adequate research is required to establish empirically derived dimensions of virtue. Future research is also needed to identify the mechanisms through which virtue relates to subjective well-being and psychological well-being. It is the positive sign of a developing field, when researchers orient their attention from establishing the effect to analysing why that effect takes place. Positive psychology research seems to be in that position. In most of the researches covered, virtue relates to variables which seem to have broad impacts on individual’s life. Additional researches are required to investigate whether virtue is related to subsidiary outcomes through these mechanisms. Similarly, further research is needed to delineate precise cognitions as well as cognitive mechanisms which may explain the way character strengths of virtues operate. The development of virtue and character strength in different forms is also another interesting area of research. Moreover, the available literature does not show any research which has examined whether any negative side is also associated with virtue. Yet there could be. Therefore, researchers may also undertake studies to identify the conditions under which virtue may become maladaptive.


Aho, K. A. (2012). Assessing the Role of Virtue Ethics in Psychology: A Commentary on the Work of Blaine Fowers, Frank Richardson, and Brent Slife. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 32(1), 43–49.

Allport, G. W. (1921). Personality and Character. Psychological Bulletin, 18(9), 441–55.

Allport, G. W., and Vernon, P. E. (1930). The Field of Personality. Psychological Bulletin, 27(10), 677–730.

Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., and Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond Reciprocity: Gratitudeand Relationships in Everyday Life. Emotion, 8(3), 425–29.

Bakker, A. B., and Schaufeli, W. B. (2008). Positive Organizational Behavior: Engaged Employees in Flourishing Organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(2), 147–54.

Baumgardner, S. R., and Crothers, M. K. (2009). Positive Psychology. New Delhi: Pearson Education.

Baumeister, R. F., and Exline, J. J. (1999). Virtue, Personality, and Social Relations: Self-control as the Moral Muscle. Journal of Personality, 67(6), 1165–94.

Bodhi, B. (2000). Facing the Future. Kandy, Srilanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Bodhi, B. (2005). A Treatise on the Paramis from the Commentary to the Cariyapitaka by Acariya Dhammapala Translated from the Pali. Retrieved from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib.

Bono, G., Emmons, R. A., and McCullough, M. E. (2004). Gratitude in Practice and the Practice of Gratitude. In P. A. Linley, and S. Joseph (Eds.), Positivepsychology in Practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Broadie, S. (1991). Ethics with Aristotle. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Buch, M. A. (2012). The Principles of Hindu Ethics. Baroda: Srimatham.com

Burke, R. J., Ng, E. S. W., and Fiksenbaum, L. (2009). Virtues, Work Satisfactions and Well-being Among Nurses. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 2(3), 202–19.

Burton, R. V. (1963). Generality of Honesty Reconsidered. Psychological Review, 70(6), 481–99.

Carr, A. (2004). Positive Psychology. The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. London: Brunner-Routledge

Cawley, M. J., III, Martin, J. E., and Johnson, J. A. (2000). A Virtues Approach to Personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 28(5), 997–1013.

Chang, K. C. (1983). Art, Myth, and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Clayton, V. (1982). Wisdom and Intelligence: The Nature and Function of Knowledge in Later Years. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 15(4), 315–21.

Costa, P. T., Jr., and McCrae, R. R. (1991). Facet Scales for Agreeableness and Conscientiousness: A Revision of the NEO Personality Inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(9), 887–98.

Cua, A. S. (2007). Virtues of Junzi. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 34 (Suppl 1), 125–42.

Dahlsgaard, K. (2005). Is Virtue More than Its Own Reward? Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 66(6-B) (UMINo.AAI3179723).

Dahlsgaard, K., Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Sharedvirtue: The Convergence of Valued Human Strengths Across Culture and History. Review of General Psychology, 9(3), 203–13.

Emmons, R. A., and Crumpler, C. A. (2000). Gratitude as a Human Strength: Appraising the Evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19(1), 56–69.

Emmons, R. A., and McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings versus Burdens: Experimental Studies of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–89.

Epstein, S., and O’Brien, E. J. (1985). The Person-Situation Debate in Historical and Current Perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 98(3), 513–37.

Flew, A. (1979). Golden rule: A Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Pan Books.

Fowers, B. J. (2010). Aristotle on Eudaimonia: On the Virtue of Returning to the Source. Unpublished manuscript.

Fowers, B. J. (2012). Placing Virtue and the Human Good in Psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 32(1), 1–9.

Fronsdal, G. (2004). Equanimity. Retrieved from www.insightmeditationcenter.org.

Glinder, J. G., and Compas, B. E. (1999). Self-blame Attributions in Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer: A Prospective Study of Psychological Adjustment. Health Psychology, 18(5), 475–81.

Haidt, J. (2008). Morality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(1), 65–72.

Hartshorne, H., and May, M. A. (1928). Studies in the Nature of Character (Vol. 1): Studies in Deceit. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Hartshorne, H., May, M. A., and Maller, J. B. (1929). Studies in the Nature of Character (Vol. 2): Studies in Service and Self-Control. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Hartshorne, H., May, M. A., and Shuttleworth, F. K. (1930). Studies in the Nature of Character (Vol. 3): Studies in the Organization of Character. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Hawkins, A. J., Fowers, B. J., Carroll, J. S., and Yang, C. (2006). Conceptualizing and Measuring Marital Virtues. In S. Hofferth and L. Casper (Eds.), Handbook of Measurement Issues in Family Research (pp. 67–83). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Juergensmeyer, M. (2005). Religion in Global Civil Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Karremans, J., and Van Lange, P. A. M. (2004). Back to Caring after Being Hurt: The Role of Forgiveness. European Journal of Social Psychology, 34(2), 207–27.

Kashdan, T. B., Uswatte, G., and Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-being in Vietnam War Veterans. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44(2), 177–99.

Kendler, K. S., Liu, X. Q., Gardner, C. O., McCullough, M. E., Larson, D., and Prescott, C. A. (2003). Dimensions of Religiosity and their Relationship to Lifetime Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(3), 496–503.

Keyes, C. L. M., and Lopez, S. J. (2002). Toward a Science of Mental Health: Positive Directions in Diagnosis and Treatment. In C. R. Snyder and S. Lopez (Eds.), The Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 45–59). New York: Oxford University Press.

Kramer, D. A. (2000). Wisdom as a Classical Source of Human Strength: Conceptualization and Empirical Inquiry. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19(1), 83–101.

Leahey, T. H. (1994). A History of Modern Psychology, 2nd Ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lindbom, T. (1975). Virtue and Morality. Studies in Comparative Religion, 9(4), 227–35.

Luo, S. (2011). Is Yi More Basic than Ren in the Teachings of Confucious? Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 38(3), 427–43.

MacIntyre, A. (1984). After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Maltby, J., Day, L., and Barber, L. (2004). Forgiveness and Mental Health Variables: Interpreting the Relationship Using an Adaptational–Continuum Model of Personality and Coping. Personality and Individual Differences, 37(8), 1629–41.

McCrae, R. R., and John, O. P. (1992). An Introduction to the Five-factor Model and Its Applications. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 175–15.

McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., and Tsang, J.A. (2002). The Grateful Disposition: A Conceptual and Empirical Topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 112–27.

McCullough, M. E., Pargament, K. I., and Thoresen, C. E. (2000). Forgiveness: Theory, Researchand Practice. New York: Guilford Press.

McCullough, M. E., Rachal, K. C., Sandage, S. J., Worthington, E. L., Jr., Brown, S. W., and Hight, T. L. (1998). Interpersonal Forgiving in Close Relationships. II: Theoretical Elaboration and Measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(6), 1586–03.

McCullough, M. E., and Snyder, C. R. (2000). Classical Sources of Human Strength: Revisiting an Old Home and Building a New One. Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 19(1), 1–10

McCullough, M. E., and Witvliet, C. V. (2002). The Psychology of Forgiveness. In C. R. Snyder and S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Psychology (pp. 446–58). New York: Oxford University Press.

Molloy, M. (2010). Experiencing the World’s Religions. Tradition, Challenge and Change. (5th.ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Mullet, E., Girard, M., and Bakhshi, P. (2004). Conceptualizations of Forgiveness. European Psychologist, 9(2), 78–86.

Nelson, D. L., and Cooper, C. L. (2007). Positive Organizational Behavior. London: Sage Publications.

Nicholson, I. A. M. (1998). Gordon Allport, Character, and the Culture of Personality, 1897–937. History of Psychology, 1(1), 52–68.

Nuyen, A. (2009). Moral Obligation and Moral Motivation in Confucian Role-Based Ethics. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 8(1), 1–11.

O’Byrne, K. K., Lopez, S. L., and Peterson, S. (2000). Building a Theory of Courage: A Precursor to Change? Paper Presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D. C.

Paranjpe, A. C., and Rao K. R. (2008). Psychology in the Advaita Vedanta. In K. R. Rao, A. C. Paranjpe and A. K. Dalal (Eds.), Handbook of Indian Psychology (pp. 253–285). New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

Park, N., and Peterson, C. (2005). The Values in Action Inventory of Character Strengths for Youth. In K. A. Moore and L. H. Lippman (Eds.), What Do Children Need to Fourish: Conceptualizing and Measuring Indicators of Positive Development (pp. 13–23). New York: Springer.

Park, N., and Peterson, C. (2006). Moral Competence and Character Strengths among Adolescents: The Development and Validation of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth. Journal of Adolescence, 29(6), 891–909.

Park, N., and Peterson, C. (2008). Positive Psychology and Character Strengths: Application to Strengths Based School Counseling. Professional School Counseling, 12(2), 85–92.

Park, N., Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of Character and Well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603–19.

Park, N., Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Character Strengths in Fifty-four Nations and the Fifty US States. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(3), 118–29.

Peterson, C., and Park, N. (2004). Classification and Measurement of Character Strengths: Implications for Practice. In P. A. Linley and S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive Psychology in Practice (433–46). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Peterson, C., and Park, N. (2006). Character Strengths in Organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(8), 1149–54.

Peterson, C., Park, N., Pole, N., D’Andrea, W., and Seligman, M. E. P. (2008). Strengths of Character and Post-traumatic Growth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(2), 214–17.

Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. (2003). Character Strengths before and after September 11. Psychological Science, 14(4), 381−84.

Peterson, C., and Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

Puligandla, R. (1985). Jñâna-Yoga—The Way of Knowledge (An Analytical Interpretation). New York: University Press of America. 

Pury, C. L., and Kowalski, R. M. (2007). Human Strengths, Courageous Actions, and General and Personal Courage. Journal of Positive Psychology, 2(2), 120–28.

Romero, C., Friedman, L. C., Kalidas, M., Elledge, R., Chang, J., and Liscum, K. R. (2006). Self- Forgiveness, Spirituality, and Psychological Adjustment in Women with Breast Cancer. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29(1), 29–36.

Ross, L., and Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The Person and the Situation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Rushton, J. P. (1984). The Altruistic Personality. In E. Straub, D. Bar Tal, J. Karylowski, and J. Reykowski (Eds.), Development and Maintenance of Prosocial Behavior (pp. 271–90). New York, NY: Praeger.

Ryff, C. D., and Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The Structure of Psychological Well-being Revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–81.

Sangharakshita (1991). The Three Jewels: An Introduction to Buddhism. Glasgow, UK: Windhorse.

Seligman, M. E. P., and Peterson, C. (2003). Positive Clinical Psychology. In L. G. Aspinwall and U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), A Psychology of Human Strengths: Fundamental Questions and Future Directions for a Positive Psychology (pp. 305–17). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., and Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Practice: Empirical Validation of Interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–21.

Shryack, J., Steger, M., Krueger, R., and Kallie, C. (2010). The Structure of Virtue: An Empirical Investigation of the Dimensionality of the Virtues in Action Inventory of Strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(6), 714–19.

Shun, W. L. (1997). Menicus and Early Chinese Thought. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Sinha, D. M. (2005, January 21). The Act of Giving Spontaneously. The Speaking Tree. Times of India.

Slife, B. D. (2012). Virtue Ethics in Practice: The Greenbrier Academy. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 32(1), 35–42.

Slife, B. D., and Richardson, F. C. (2008). Problematic Ontological Underpinnings of Positive Psychology: A Strong Relational Alternative. Theory and Psychology, 18(5), 699–23.

Snyder, C. R., and Lopez, J. L. (2007). Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. New Delhi: Sage.

Stalker, J. (1902). The Seven Cardinal Virtues. New York: American Tract Society.

Staudinger, U. M., Lopez, D. F., and Baltes, P. B. (1997). The Psychometric Location of Wisdom Related Performance: Intelligence, Personality, and More? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(11), 1200–14.

Steen, T., Kachorek, L. V., and Peterson, C. (2003). Character Strengths Among Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(1), 5–16.

Steger, M. F., Hicks, B. M., Kashdan, T. B., Krueger, R. F., and Bouchard, T. J. Jr, (2007). Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Positive Traits of the Values in Action Classification, and Biometric Covariance with Normal Personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(3), 524–39.

Sternberg, R. (1985). Implicit Theories of Intelligence, Creativity, and Wisdom. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(3), 607–27.

Sussman, W. I. (1973). Culture as History. New York, NY: Pantheon.

Tjeltveit, A. C. (2003). Implicit Virtues, Divergent Goods, Multiple Communities: Explicitly Addressing Virtues in the Behavioral Sciences. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(4), 395–14.

Tsang, J., McCullough, M. E., and Fincham, F. (2006). The Longitudinal Association Between Forgiveness and Relationship Closeness and Commitment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25(4), 448–72.

Van Eeden, C., Wissing, M. P., Dreyer, J., Park, N., and Peterson, C. (2008). Validation of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth Among South African Learners. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 18(1), 143–54.

van Norden, B. (2007). Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Walker, L. J., and Pitts, R. C. (1998). Naturalistic Conceptions of Moral Maturity. Developmental Psychology, 34(3), 403–19.

Wetlesen, J. (2002). Did Santideva Destroy the Bodhisattva Path? Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 9(1), 34–88.

Witvliet, C. V. O., Ludwig, T. E., and Vander Laan, K. L. (2001). Granting Forgiveness or Harboring Grudges: Implications for Emotion, Physiology, and Health. Psychological Science, 12(2), 117–23.

Worthington, E. L. Jr. (2006). Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Theory and Application. New York: Brunner–Routledge.

Xunzi (2001). ‘Xunzi’ in EL Hutton (tr), P. J. Ivanhoe and B. W. van Norden (Eds.), Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. New York: Seven Bridges.